While visiting Santas North Pole headquarters in the movie The Santa Clause, actor Tim Allen asks Judy, a cute elf, Can I fly back to reality, or do I have to change planes in Denver? He was having a hard time believing what he saw and could not reconcile any of it with reality.
I can relate. I suffered a similarif oppositeshock myself. You see, back in 1990, I left an in-the-trenches data processing job in order to join the Midrange Computing staff, and I stayed in the magazine business until August 1998, just a month short of eight years. During those years, I got totally disconnected from reality, and the fault was mine for not keeping up with the real issues of everyday programming. I should have done some consulting work to keep my hands dirty, but I didnt.
As a result, I received quite a jolt when I left the magazine and went back to the real world as a programmer/analyst for a software developer. Now, I have this to say: Wow, what a difference!
Egregious Misconception Number One: RPG III is a dead language. Ha! This is the most egregious misconception of all! RPG III is anything but dead. For years, Ive been berating poor ol RPG as the language of the dinosaur, and, for the same length of time, Ive been secretly planning some accident to happen to Roberto Pedro Gonzalez, the inventor of the language. After all, everything was personally his fault, and he should suffer the consequences.
While sitting on my cloud atop my glass tower, I decided that, because it was impossible to kill off RPG, everybody should at least move to RPG IV (you know, that ILE thing), so I started my quest to save all those poor souls from irrelevance and the Dark Ages.
My friends, I found that life is different out there. For one thing, I discovered that it doesnt matter that I prefer RPG IV. I have to code in RPG III if I want my job because thats what my employer uses. And my employer, I hasten to add, is forced to use RPG III because many of its customers use pre-V3R1 AS/400s. Until V2Rx becomes a thing of the past, the software package authored by my employer has to stay written in RPG III.
Egregious Misconception Number Two: Code must be a work of art, a thing of elegance and beauty, pretty to look at no matter how long it takes to make it so.
Boy, this one sure is embarrassing. Now that I do maintenance programming day in and day out, I realize that I dont have the time to make my code pretty. Sure, I try to make it as readable as is humanly possible, but, as time goes by, I worry less about using uppercase for reserved words and lowercase for everything else.
Worse, because I do maintenance programming, I get to work on a few programs that were written in RPG II for a S/36 over 12 years ago, converted to RPG III on the AS/400 without changing much, patched over and over through the years, and somehow survived to this day. Theres no time to clean them up much, especially because doing so may introduce bugs into a program that works well.
Egregious Misconception Number Three: Every programmer on Earth should use a PC editor instead of SEU. After all, SEU is only minimally better than EDLIN, the old MS-DOS line editor.
This one is way up there in the stratospheric levels of idealism. Its easy to preach this philosophy when you dont have to deal with numerous customers over telephone lines and sometimes-slow modems and limited bandwidth. Now that I do these things every day, I realize how unrealistic my earlier position was.
Dont get me wrong: I would still prefer a PC (actually a Mac) editor to SEU any day, but my job makes all the necessary uploading and downloading extremely impractical.
Not only that, but we cannot assume that our customers AS/400s are hooked up to the Internet so that we can PTF our way to Heaven. As things are today, we access their systems using display station pass-through (DSPT) and work directly in their machines with whatever tools they have installed. Im actually glad they have PDM, SDA, and SEU.
Of Course, Some Are Privileged
What Im trying to say is that living in the leading edge of technology isnt always feasible or even practical. Some real-life issues wont go away, and no amount of wishing and dreaming will take them out.
Of course, some people are privileged. You may be one of them, sitting on your cloud as you smirk at me and feel superior. Thats OK. I dont mind that; I was one of them myself not long ago. I had new toys to play with every day: new versions of software and new hardware, enough to keep a tinkerer like myself busy.
Still, those jobs are rare. Dont fall for what dreamers want you to think. Question everything! And keep your hands dirty in the real-life crude oil that still drives our breadwinning machines.